The rapid expansion of a huge international market requires the industrial sector to optimize production processes to achieve a greater market share and increase competitiveness. To achieve this, engineering has promoted the development of areas such as mechanics, electronics and robotics to manage and consolidate the automation of industrial processes.
Automation is the implementation of intelligent systems and technologies to operate machinery and control production processes, regardless of human operation in jobs that require greater effort and represent a huge risk to the health and welfare of workers. Currently, there are three types of automation in accordance with the degree of production and needs of a certain industry:
Designed for large-scale manufacturing: A specialized machine or equipment is used to produce a part of a product or the product itself, in a fixed and continuous sequence. This type of automation is ideal for producing large volumes of products that have a long-life cycle, an invariable design and a broad consumer demand. Its main limitations are the high initial cost and the lack of flexibility of the equipment to adapt.
Suitable for a smaller production volume, segmented by batches, programmable automation allows to change or reprogram the sequence of operation, by means of a software, to include the variations of the product. Among the most used equipment for this type of automation are numerical control machines, robots and programmable logic controllers.
Designed for an average production level, flexible automation is the extension of programmable automation. It reduces the programming time of the equipment and allows to alternate the elaboration of two products (in series) when mixing different variables. Flexibility refers to the ability of teams to accept changes in the design and configuration of the product, thus reducing costs for companies.
Advantages of Industrial Automation
- Decreases manufacturing costs
- Increases the efficiency of the production process.
- Speeds the response to market demands.
- Replaces the man with complicated industrial processes that endanger his physical integrity
- Favors business competitiveness.
- Improves the security of the processes and the quality of the production.
Disadvantages of Industrial Automation
- Generates technological dependence
- Requires a large initial investment
- Lack of trained personnel to manage the equipment
- Susceptibility to technological obsolescence
- The resistance of the workers to the change
One of the main challenges of the implementation of automated systems in industries is to balance the work done by computerized equipment and robots with the work performed by the operators. While technology helps to optimize processes and limits human intervention, it does not replace it completely. The error is to associate industrial automation with unemployment since human presence is necessary for the management, supervision and control of complex production processes.